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If you are what you eat, then I used to be a cheeseball.

I loved cheese so much I would put it on anything. Not just the usual sandwich or salad, but on sweet things as well – such as pie and cookies. Yes, even cookies. All my life I was afflicted with auto-immune disease.

It began when I was 22. I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis. It didn’t affect my daily life, except for the fact that I had a difficult time warding off viruses. I always got the flu. Generally speaking, if I was around someone that was sick, I would always take it home with me.

Much, much later in life, I was diagnosed with lichen sclerosis. This disease is especially nasty. There was no doctor that would help me. Both a dermatologist and a gynecologist verified the findings. And both gave me the very same response: “Sorry, I can’t help you”.

I suffered for a couple of years without any improvement. The gynecologist gave me some topical ointment, but it only gave a small amount of relief.

It was while staying at a relative’s home that I reached the final straw. Unable to sleep because I couldn’t find a comfortable position where I could rest, I moved into the living room where I sat and cried. There had to be a better way.

I made an appointment with a naturopath who had been helpful in the past. I’m not sure why I didn’t see him sooner. While he admitted there was nothing he could find regarding lichen, he did have a suggestion. His wife had struggled with a skin issue. Her condition improved when she was tested for food allergies and took up a new eating regimen. I was all in. He took some blood and sent it off to be tested.

At 62 years old I received my food allergy results. At first glance they were great. All the categories showed no allergy at all. Except for four. They were off the chart. I am allergic to wheat (gluten), dairy, eggs, and peas.I cut these foods out of my life immediately. There was no easing into the program. The problem was, that I had no idea what that meant. I ate only fresh foods. I know that probably sounds like a good thing, but I missed the foods that I used to eat. I began reading about food substitutions. My first attempt was bread. I really missed bread. I wanted a sandwich. I wanted a slice of toast in the morning. So I would simply make my own. After all, I owned a bread maker.

I knew that I couldn’t substitute just one type of flour. I needed a blend of many different types. I went to the natural food store and bought bags and bags of various kinds of gluten free flours. Using my regular recipe – substituting my flour mixture – I threw everything into the bread machine.

It smelled good. That made the result even more devastating. Instead of a loaf of bread, I had a lump of dough and lots of crumbles. It wasn’t until I did further research that I found out that you can’t use a standard bread maker if you are baking gluten-free bread. It is the gluten in bread that you are working when you do the punch down. There are bread machines that have a gluten-free setting, but mine was not one of them.

In the years following there were more and more options for people with food allergies. There are several good brands of gluten-free breads to choose from. Not so many that are also egg-free.

In the beginning, if I had been given the gift of one food that I could put back in my diet, I would have picked cheese. But now, after many years of learning about food substitutions, I would choose egg. Eggs are in everything. You must know how the egg is used chemically in the recipe in order to make a proper replacement.

I may not be a cheeseball any longer, but I am still a Cheese Head. Go Green Bay.